Is it just me, or is Scream 4 the franchise's best?

Courtney Cox in Scream 4
(Image credit: Dimension Films)

All right, don’t everybody, ahem, scream at once. Clearly, Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher send-up is a masterpiece that challenged and changed the rules of the horror movie. But 25 years on, the Scream film I go back to most often isn’t the original. It’s the reboot.

For me, the tagline – ‘New decade, new rules’ – sums up exactly why Scream 4 remains both eminently rewatchable and more relevant than ever. Released in 2011, the film reunites the survivors of the original Scream trilogy (Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette) and introduces a hip new cast of Ghostface fodder (Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin).

“Less of a shriekquel, more of a screamake,” it delivers the expected self-referential movie chat, creepy phone calls and gore (this was post-torture porn, but pre-iPhone ubiquity). But most tantalising of all is its central conceit that, in a reboot, the rules have changed and reversals are the new standard. That means cops die, the ‘climactic’ set-piece takes place in the middle of the movie, and the film opens with two Russian-doll-style fake-outs in which we’re actually watching Stab 6 and 7. Even being gay won’t save you, as Erik Knudsen’s Robbie discovers.

Emma Roberts in Scream 4

(Image credit: Entertainment)

And when it comes to the identity of the killer? All bets are off. In fact, Scream 4 drags “everybody’s a suspect” to its natural conclusion with a killer you never see coming. A decade on, the big reveal is even more chillingly relevant. “I don’t need friends. I need fans,” the unmasked killer howls. Anybody who’s ever worried about their Insta following will understand.

Beyond that, Scream 4 is jam-packed with hot takes and fresh spins. Gale is ferocious going rogue; the debate about what it means to be a victim adds depth; and Campbell’s final line is badass. The cherry on top? That’d be Panettiere’s breathless, off-the-cuff listing of horror-movie remakes – 14 in total.

With a new Scream in cinemas next year, reuniting the survivors with yet another hip young cast, it’s not the original film that directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett need to beat, it’s Scream 4… or is it just me?

Josh Winning

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.